Truck driver fatigue has been a major issue not only in Illinois, but throughout our country. It is one which many government representatives are trying to tackle through legislation and attorneys, like ours, are trying to battle through legal action. When a truck driver operates a truck with too little sleep and too many consecutive hours of driving, they are not only putting all others on the road in danger and breaching their legal duty of care to be safe drivers, but they are breaking the law.
The federal law is known as the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule, and it was published in 2011, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Hours of Service regulations impose limits on how long a driver may operate the truck and continue driving over a consecutive period without a break. For property-carrying drivers, such as commercial truckers, there is an 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers also may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. As for rest breaks, a driver may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of a driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
However, despite the law, there are many drivers who choose to drive for too long and employers who direct them to drive too many hours straight on the job. Our attorneys have even seen incidents where driver log books will be falsely recorded so that it appears a driver was in compliance with the law, when they actually broke it. Driving while fatigued and for too many hours in a row reckless and is extremely likely to cause an accident. In recent news by the Chicago Tribune, a truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel and then crossed the central line of a highway. This resulted in him colliding with a car and a school bus. This recklessness and resulting accident killed the driver of the car, seriously injured the car’s passenger, and sent 43 students to the hospital for medical care and evaluations. Many children suffered fractures, bruises, and lacerations. The accident seriously damaged the bus and caused its roof to cave in and smashed the windows. Children involved in the accident described how the impact mad them fall out of their seats. While it appears the driver had fallen asleep, the accident is still under investigation. Authorities took a voluntary blood sample of the truck driver, and are researching to see whether drugs and alcohol were also a factor in this crash.
Choosing to break the law and drive more hours in a row than allowed puts profit before the safety of people, especially because driver fatigue is so likely to lead to a truck accident. Chicago is an especially large hub for trucks. Not only are we a city with many businesses and operations, but we are centrally located in the United States, and have many surrounding highways and interstates. This means that truck driver and employer negligence makes our Chicago roads more dangerous and susceptible to truck accidents.